EUGENE, Ore. – The magic was back at Hayward Field on Thursday.
There were loud and spontaneous celebrations among the athlete groups sitting in the East Grandstands, a jaw-dropping world junior record from French hurdler Wilhem Belocian, an historic race from Team USA’s Mary Cain in the 3,000 meters and utter dominance in the men’s shot put.
In all, it made for an electric evening of entertainment for the 8,112 fans in attendance on the third day of competition at the 2014 IAAF World Junior Championships.
Where to begin?Perhaps the 110-meter high hurdles, where Belocian deftly navigated the barriers to claim the gold medal in a World Junior record time of 12.99 seconds. He was so overwhelmed at his performance, that he had no words for post-race interviewer Jordan Kent, simply lying on his back on the infield grass with his hands covering his face.
Later, he had this to say about the race:
“Being the first junior to run under 13 seconds – this is incredible! I still can’t believe it. The final was great. I’m a competitive person, so I like to have strong rivals to test myself.”
There was no shortage of competition.
In fact, silver medalist Tyler Mason of Jamaica also broke the previous World Junior record of 13.12 set by China’s Wiang Liu in 2002 with his runner-up time of 13.06. Great Britain’s David Omoregie settled for the bronze at 13.35.
Coming into this meet, no American female had ever medaled at any distance above 1,500 meters at the IAAF World Junior Championships.
Cain, who will be a freshman at the University of Portland this fall while competing as a professional for the Nike Oregon Project, put an emphatic end to that drought.She smartly hugged the inside rail for most of the race, and then showed off her closing speed with 200 meters to go, stepping out of a potential trap by a pair of Kenyans before pulling away down the home straight with a personal best of 8:58.48.
“This felt like a home track meet for me,” said the personable Cain. “The crowd went wild as I headed down the backstretch. Everybody was so amazing. There isn’t anywhere else you can get a crowd like that.”
Poland’s Konrad Bukowiecki, who looks like he could have a long and lucrative career as a left tackle in the NFL, quickly figured that out in the shot put ring.
At one point, he playfully dribbled the iron ball with his feet, before commanding the crowd to begin a long and sustained rhythmic clap with a couple of swings of his right arm.
His winning effort of 72 feet, 4 ½ inches on his second attempt was more than six feet better than the silver medalist – Denzel Comentia of The Netherlands – and stands as the third-longest mark ever for a junior with the six-kilogram implement. Team USA’s Braheme Days took the bronze.“It is an amazing feeling to be a world champion,” Bukowiecki said. “I am very thankful to my family, they support me a lot. My father is a coach and my brother is also not a stranger to the shot put, so they understand very well what it takes and what it means to me.”
Later, as the Polish flag was raised during the shot put medal ceremony, the Polish athletes sitting in the East Grandstand serenaded their teammate with a rousing rendition of the national anthem.
It was a scenario played out multiple times throughout the night, with different athlete groups from around the globe breaking into spontaneous celebrations of dance and song.